You are on page 1of 23

1.

What I have learned about teaching


entrepreneurship: perspectives of
five master educators
Jerome S. Engel, Minet Schindehutte, Heidi M.
Neck, Ray Smilor and Bill Rossi
INTRODUCTION
The editors of this volume asked five leading educators what they have
learned about teaching entrepreneurship. We reached out to faculty
members acknowledged by their peers, leading academic organizations,
their institutions and their students to be among the very best in entre
preneurship education. Each of these individuals has over a decade of
experience in the entrepreneurship classroom, and has witnessed the rapid
evolution of a very dynamic discipline. In the pages that follow, they provide
unique perspectives on what is taught and how it is taught. The opening
piece captures a bit of the trajectory of entrepreneurship education and
the contemporary challenge, while the four that follow provide personal
insights on teaching entrepreneurship in ways that meet that challenge.
Jerome S. Engel
We have made great progress in entrepreneurship education. When I first
came to Berkeley in 1991 after a successful career in industry, fundamental
challenges to the role of entrepreneurship in education were open and raw.
One would frequently be asked:

Can entrepreneurship be taught?


Does entrepreneurship belong in the university?

Thanks to educators like the contributors to this volume and their pre
decessors, these basic challenges have been laid to rest. It is understood
that entrepreneurship is a life skill with broad applicability. It is important
and helpful to many beyond those who choose to pursue entrepreneurship
3
Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159
Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 3

27/10/2016 08:00

Annals of entrepreneurship education and pedagogy 2016

as a career. Like mathematics, it is broadly relevant and not limited just to


those who choose to become mathematicians.
It is now our turn to ask:

What are entrepreneurship educations best practices?


How can we best utilize entrepreneurship education to mobilize
the resources and talents to create value for our students and their
stakeholders, for our communities and for society as a whole?

Reflecting on my experience as an entrepreneurship educator over the


last 25 years, I believe that we clearly have made great progress in devel
oping the educational curriculum and experiential methods to help our
students build successful entrepreneurial ventures and careers. I will focus
here on three big challenges that we now face as we broaden our influence
and impact:
1. the importance of entrepreneurship education to corporate innovation
strategy broadly;
2. the importance of entrepreneurship education to university education
writ large;
3. the importance of entrepreneurship education to the creation of
healthy innovation communities and economies, for example clusters
of innovation.

LET ME SHARE A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE


In the beginning, entrepreneurship education was the domain of the busi
ness school.
In the 1980s ...
When we thought of entrepreneurship education, if we thought of it at
all, we thought of Small Business SMEs. Entrepreneurship was often
a stand-alone cross-disciplinary capstone course where students built busi
ness plans and integrated the skills they had learned in their marketing,
finance and management courses. Case studies were the new pedagogical
innovation, and experiential learning was limited to internships or student
projects for smaller firms.

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 4

27/10/2016 08:00

What I have learned about teaching entrepreneurship 5

In the 1990s ...


We discovered the startup. Especially with the arrival of the internet,
the opportunity for any student to start his or her own business became
evident. Business plan competitions grew like mushrooms. When we
founded our competition at Berkeley in the mid 1990s it was still consid
ered an innovation, though we were following in the well-worn path of
Moot Corp (University of Texas at Austin) and others. We still taught
entrepreneurship with case studies and business plans. In fact, the common
philosophy was that technology startups were just smaller versions of big
businesses. With their potential for explosive growth they were exciting
opportunities and we focused on teaching the articulation of the business
plan for the management of rapid growth. We had not yet recognized and
isolated for analysis and teaching the very special attribute of a startup,
that it was a temporary state meant for experimentation to discover and
validate a business model, which could then be executed with greater cer
tainty and justifiably greater capital. This insight would have to await the
next major disruption looming on the horizon.
The Turn of the Century Brought a New Reality ...
On March 10, 2000 the NASDAQ index reached a peak of $5048. By
October 9, 2002 it had collapsed to $1114, and it would not start a sus
tained recovery until November 2008, a full nine years after the bust. With
the bursting of the internet bubble, some questioned the value and dura
bility of the entrepreneurial revolution. A leading Silicon Valley venture
capital firm published a briefing on internet enterprises for its limited
partners headlined with a tombstone engraved R.I.P. Rest in Peace!
The hiatus of the excesses of the bubble, and the subsequent rebirth of
the technology startup opportunity, not only yielded Google and many
other global success stories, but also supplied new approaches to discover
ing opportunity by using less capital and more experimentation. Out of
the necessity of the capital crunch of the post-bubble period came the first
instances of the entrepreneurial management practices we now know as
Lean the Lean Startup or the Lean LaunchPad.
2010 Onward ...
In the last decade we have seen these methods become well understood
and broadly promulgated. We have built new tools. The triad of the busi
ness model canvas, customer discovery and the minimum viable product
has become ubiquitous. We have developed a new pedagogy. We no longer

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 5

27/10/2016 08:00

Annals of entrepreneurship education and pedagogy 2016

teach that a startup is a smaller version of a big business; rather we now


teach that a startup is a temporary organization whose purpose is to discover a viable and scalable business model. We teach evidence-based entre
preneurship. The business plan while still a valuable management tool is
understood as an execution tool, a tool to be used once the startup is ready
to scale. The capstone case study is no longer about someone elses busi
ness, but the students own venture. The professor is no longer the source
of all wisdom, but rather a guide who provides an enriched e nvironment
for the students own research and experimentation.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF THE NEXT


DECADE?
Three challenges loom.
The first challenge is increasing the impact of what we have learned
by accelerating corporate innovation, taking what we have learned about
accelerating innovation using the entrepreneurial startup model to the
larger stage. Again history is our guide. The modern corporation was
the innovation engine of the mid-twentieth century. With massive cor
porate R&D labs doing some of the best basic research, the modern
twentieth-century corporation was a vertically integrated technology com
mercialization machine. But that model is long gone. With the focus on
execution forced on top management by the public financial markets,
research departments have been spun off or devolved to product develop
ment. True research has been relegated to the university, and innovative
new market creation and disruptive innovation outsourced to the startup.
For some, open innovation has simply meant scouting for and acquir
ing promising startups. The challenge of the next decade for the leaders of
entrepreneurship education will be to help the more progressive major cor
porations go beyond such open innovation to become true ambidextrous
organizations: organizations that simultaneously execute and experiment.
This evolution has already started. Many major corporations are trying in
different ways to adopt entrepreneurial business model experimentation.
It will be our job to aid them, study the results and synthesize the best
practices so we can bring them back to the classroom. That classroom may
not initially be the traditional college venue at first it may well be more
suitable for executive education. But those are the experiments that are in
our future.
Our second challenge involves entrepreneurship educations role in
the entire university. Entrepreneurship education has long left the exclu
sive purview of the business school. Its relevance to engineering and

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 6

27/10/2016 08:00

What I have learned about teaching entrepreneurship 7

the sciences has never been clearer. Many engineering programs have
embraced entrepreneurship, establishing their own faculties and curricu
lum. Further, the U.S. federal government is embarked on an ambitious
program, the National Science Foundations Innovation Corps (I-Corps),
of which I have the privilege to be the National Faculty Director. It is
embedding the Lean LaunchPad, an intense 10-week entrepreneurship
experiential immersion, into the very core of technology commercializa
tion funding. In just four years since its inception, this program has already
trained over 1500 NSF-funded scientists and is now expanding across the
technology commercialization efforts of the National Institutes of Health,
the Department of Energy and other federal agencies. Beyond these direct
efforts, it is having a fundamental ripple effect, impacting entrepreneurship
education at universities across the country.
Going beyond its bedrock constituents in business, engineering and the
sciences, entrepreneurship education is penetrating and adding value to
the pursuit of the arts and the professions, such as journalism, medicine
and law. Over 10 years ago when Wake Forrest, a top quality liberal arts
college in North Carolina, established the first entrepreneurship curricu
lum focused on the arts, it was considered extraordinary. Now not only
has entrepreneurship education spread into new fields, but the corollary is
also true more and more diverse fields are influencing the advancement
of entrepreneurial studies. I need only cite the impact of design thinking
to make my case.
Now lets turn to our third, and perhaps most impactful, challenge:
the role of the university in creating clusters of innovation. Just as entre
preneurship has established itself on campus, the critical contribution of
the university in fostering healthy innovation communities has received
broader recognition. The university has long been recognized as a provider
of the seed corn of knowledge and technology. What is new is the awak
ening of new pathways for social contribution, through commercializa
tion driven by entrepreneurial ventures. As this effect has become more
profound in scale and scope, so the role of the university in fostering and
enabling this process has deepened. The universitys contribution is impor
tant not just for academic relevancy, but for effective public policy as well.
Five years ago, a dozen scholars gathered to raise the question: What
is the role of the university in the creation of an innovation society? I
was gratified that the group chose to anchor their analysis on a frame
work I had created that extended the work of Michael Porter of Harvard,
Henry Etzkowitz of Stanford and other great contributors before them.
That framework, which the group came to call the Cluster of Innovation
Framework, went beyond its predecessors focus on the components of a
cluster namely industry concentration, venture capital and such and

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 7

27/10/2016 08:00

Annals of entrepreneurship education and pedagogy 2016

placed equal or even greater focus on the soft factors of behaviors, such
as the mobility of people, money and technology, the propensity for risk
taking, acceptance of failure as a learning process, and structures that
create alignment of interests, engender teamwork and foster winwin
scenarios, such as broad-
based equity compensation. Elaborating the
Cluster of Innovation Framework led to an important insight that clus
ters of innovation did not have to be restricted by physical boundaries.
Communities that shared these propensities, these behaviors and these
structures could extend beyond physical borders and align with other
like communities around the world, forming a new silk road, a global
network of clusters of innovation.
What is the relevance of global clusters of innovation to entrepreneur
ship education? The active protagonists in these communities are our
students! Properly educated, they are better prepared to succeed in todays
innovation economy an economy that is characterized by the rapid emer
gence, dominance and sunset of technologies, business models, and the
businesses that give them life.
The role of the university is central in this new world, and it is under
going a major make-over, reaching beyond the technical contribution of
modern science and engineering and the training of a qualified workforce.
The modern university contributes a new resource the entrepreneurial
team which is at the center of the innovation process.
Entrepreneurship educators stand on the cusp of a new day and new
challenges:

taking what we have learned about innovation from the entrepre


neurial model into the broader corporate enterprise, enabling the
creation of new management practices that support the ambidex
trous organization, one that can both execute and innovate;
embracing the entire university in entrepreneurship and innovation
education, informing and being informed by the contributions of
others;
undertaking our mission as cornerstones in the creation of clusters
of innovation in our communities, and as academics using our
special access to foster collaboration with other partners around
the world so our communities can benefit from the synergies of the
global network of clusters of innovation.

These goals may seem audacious too grand and ambitious but, if
I may borrow liberally from a biblical scholar, if not us, then who? Who
else is better situated, or better prepared? These opportunities are at our
doorstep.

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 8

27/10/2016 08:00

What I have learned about teaching entrepreneurship 9

Minet Schindehutte
Five discoveries have shaped my professional life as an entrepreneurship
educator. These five lessons came from many encounters on my journey
from students in the United States, South Africa and India, from entrepre
neurs across the world, and from other teachers who are passionate about
entrepreneurship. I share these insights with the hope that one (or more)
of them will resonate with others engaged in the lives of students in an
entrepreneurship classroom.

1. BE INSPIRED
Entrepreneurship is in everything we do, but it is also in between those
things. It is a mashup of the three main modes of thinking: philosophy
(as the creation of new concepts), art (as the creation of new experiences)
and science (as the creation of new functions). Entrepreneurship as art,
as science and as philosophy or rather where the boundaries between
art, science and philosophy are transgressed requires that we recognize
its power to transform, that is, to create difference and divergence, rather
than to encourage imitation and conformity. Thus, we should not view
entrepreneurship as a discipline something that we can define and know.
Rather, we should view entrepreneurship in terms of what it might be able
to do: in terms of its potentiality, a becoming for the sake of change itself.
Teaching entrepreneurship as a philosophy for life not an occupation
goes beyond facts, and involves a principles-based approach. This set of
principles is distilled from experiences that provide guidance on how to live
an entrepreneurial life.
Gilles Deleuze, a French philosopher, is my muse. For Deleuze (1990),
life is difference, the power to think differently, to become different and
to create differences. I did not fully understand what difference meant
until I encountered Deleuzes philosophy of becoming. Reading Deleuze
enriched my life with radically new perspectives on everything. For the
first time, I saw potential everywhere. Whereas educators think about the
start and end of the course (as learning outcomes), students are always in
the middle: on their way to becoming-other full of infinite potential. I
encourage students to write a manifesto for how to lead an entrepreneurial
life. Rather than provide them with training materials for an occupation,
these personalized principles can guide their everyday choices: an operat
ing system working in the background, reminding them to be inspired and
to inspire others.

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 9

27/10/2016 08:00

10

Annals of entrepreneurship education and pedagogy 2016

2. BE RELEVANT
Most of the students in my classroom have no intention of starting a
business after graduation (or perhaps ever). They are would-be accountants,
marketers, entrepreneurs, scientists, industrial designers and e ngineers but
they are also authors, musicians, photographers, painters, poets, hobbyists,
foodies and sports fans. The one thing they all share is a deep uncertainty
about who they are and what they want to do. The lesson I have learned
from my students is that most of them are looking for something
something that is impossible to articulate, yet something (often particular
to the individual) that they know they have not yet discovered, and some
thing they will need in whatever they choose to do next. Being a student
in the age of uncertainty means learning for entrepreneurship not about
entrepreneurship. In short, the students being in the world is more impor
tant for her learning than her interests in developing knowledge and under
standing in a particular field (Barnett, 2007, p.6).
Consequently, I encourage students to approach entrepreneurship (and
life!) as an act of creation. Regardless of a chosen professional career,
students are creators of their lives connecting to their true potential is
a birthright. Unfortunately, information about how to create the future
cannot be found in a textbook. Staying abreast of all new developments,
technological advances and entrepreneurs endeavors is an immensely
time-consuming process, but it is a necessary process if one believes that
learning is for life, and that teaching entrepreneurship should provide
opportunities for students to experience the joy of creating, to flex their
entrepreneurial muscle and to exceed their own expectations (not strive
to meet mine or those of their parents). This belief translates into crafting
assessment tools that involve invention creating something new rather
than regurgitation. It can take the shape of a DIY exam or something
more experiential, but in all instances students are challenged to rethink
the information they considered as fact, and to glimpse reality with
their imaginations and even their hopes. To a certain extent then, I am a
(life) coach rather than a teacher. My role is to create the conditions for
behavior change, that is, self-directed learning through self-discovery, self-
acceptance and self-expression in which learning is a search for (lifelong)
meaning, and learning entrepreneurship is part of a students way-finding.

3. BE ADVENTUROUS
Students do not become more entrepreneurial by reading about entrepreneur
ship; they have to live it not one day in the future, but now, and every day.

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 10

27/10/2016 08:00

What I have learned about teaching entrepreneurship 11

I believe the role of the entrepreneurship educator is to challenge, provoke,


disrupt, reinvent and be out in front. It requires a willingness to experi
ment and try new things, to model the innovative behavior required of stu
dents. This means setting the entrepreneurship classroom apart from others,
making it clear that this is where entrepreneurship happens. Students learn
how to think and act entrepreneurially, not what to learn about entrepreneur
ship. They do not have to start businesses or do internships in high growth
businesses to experience entrepreneurship. It can be simulated through trans
formational experiences both inside and outside the classroom with the
potential to make a real difference in students lives, often in unpredictable
ways. In the words of Shoshana Felman, if teaching does not hit upon some
sort of crisis, if it does not encounter either the vulnerability or the explosive
ness of a (explicit or implicit) critical and unpredictable dimension, it has
perhaps not truly taught (1992, p.53, italics in original).
In an experience-first approach to teaching entrepreneurship, the test
precedes the lesson. I simply create a platform for students a set
of facilitative conditions, rather than constraining rules and then set
them free. Students are invited to participate (with others) in a variety of
unconventional activities, from exploratory to symbolic, learning collabo
ratively and supporting each other, rather than competing for grades. This
alternative to one-size-fits-all pedagogies challenges, and indeed resists,
education-as-usual and all its associated assumptions, assessments and
procedures.

4. BE INQUISITIVE
Entrepreneurship is often taught in a problemsolution approach the pre-
defined problem is associated with an opportunity that is transformed into
a venture (the right answer to the problem). Unfortunately, the ability
to problematize, to linger in that dynamic, generative space in between
problems and solutions that remains unresolved, is sometimes neglected.
Becoming proficient at intellectual exploration through inquiry r eflexively
and relationally, following unexpected detours rather than looking for spe
cific answers is an important transferable skill, e specially when students
experience first-hand how moments of insight pierce through the veil of
uncertainty.
The message to my students, in the words of the German poet Rainer
Maria Rilke, is as follows:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions
themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 11

27/10/2016 08:00

12

Annals of entrepreneurship education and pedagogy 2016


foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you
because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live
along some distant day into the answer. (1993, p.35)

An inquiry-based approach in which students are encouraged to love the


questions themselves not the-end-of-textbook-chapter questions, but
questions that are intrinsically motivated by a wondering-about, ques
tions students ask at a perspective-changing level can be one of the most
valuable tools for entrepreneurship education.
Concomitantly, students are encouraged to become more introspective
and contemplative by journaling about their learning experiences (becom
ing their own sounding board) and to derive relevant principles from the
so what questions. Apart from taking pride in what they have created,
students develop a more personal relationship with course content
making connections between self, entrepreneurship and world. I use
student e-portfolios to support critical reflection, as well as for assessing
experiential competencies. This shifts the purpose of the e-portfolio from
an employer focus (portfolio as a hiring or career tool) to a student focus
(portfolio as a platform for learning).

5. BE AUTHENTIC
This is the final (and most important) lesson. As a beginner entrepre
neurship educator, I often wished that I could teach like one of the
masters. It wasnt until I developed my own teaching style one that
was distinctly different from that of my colleagues that I realized
the importance of being true to oneself. It seems so obvious after the
fact, but it was not apparent during the early days, especially given the
importance attached to student evaluations. The classroom as a space
for exploration, questioning and meaning-making is not without chal
lenges. For the teacher it means taking risks, being comfortable with
unpredictable outcomes, and letting the reins go in order to find the
sweet spot between chaos and order. For the student, it is fraught with
ambiguity. Not every student enjoys the messiness of an experimental,
improvisational classroom in which unexpected possibilities exist. Some
students prefer (or rather demand) the familiarity and efficiency of a
lecture-based or case-based pedagogy either because they are uncom
fortable with ambiguity and uncertainty, or because they simply resist
change. Students differing responses to how I teach entrepreneurship
in an inverted classroom increase the complexity of managing class ses
sions, especially when class sizes exceed 40 students (which is typical).

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 12

27/10/2016 08:00

What I have learned about teaching entrepreneurship 13

Source:https://www.facebook.com/gapingvoidgallery/posts/1010285655697107.

Unanticipated events invariably unsettle even my most painstakingly


planned and well-intended efforts.
Unlike some educators, I find that I am still becoming-teacher learning
with, and from, my students. As in the case of becoming an entrepreneur,
these lessons cannot be learned in a book or in a classroom. They are derived
from teaching experiences, and after making innumerable mistakes. However,
an intense period of failure is often the source of critical insight. Moreover,
it almost always prompts re-evaluation of my own, as well as contemporary,
pedagogical options. And, although I often cringe in retrospect, I sincerely
believe you have to do something that scares you: to feel the fear and do it
anyway. Why not? Isnt that what we expect of our entrepreneurship students?
Heidi M. Neck
When asked to contribute to this chapter of the Annals I was thrilled to
be in the company of so many educators that I admire. The challenge to
reflect on what Ive learned about teaching entrepreneurship was both
exciting and terrifying. I was excited to have an excuse to intentionally and

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 13

27/10/2016 08:00

14

Annals of entrepreneurship education and pedagogy 2016

purposefully reflect on my teaching over the past 15 years yet terrified that
I would not have anything of impact to say to those reading this volume
presumably other entrepreneurship educators. There were many days
where I said to myself, I will get this short section done today! On those
same days I sat looking at a blank screen experiencing a sort of writers
block regarding the one thing I love most teaching entrepreneurship.
Frustration set in, which only exacerbated my writers block!
I decided to seek out inspiration. I keep many teaching files on my
computer and even in hard-copy form in my office. I have files for my
student opinion surveys (Babsons version of student ratings of profes
sors), files for new course ideas, files for new exercises to try, files with
video links, files with inspirational quotes, files with all types of articles
on teaching, and even emails and other correspondence from current and
past students. In this latter file I found an article that I had saved from the
Babson Magazine (2013). In the Spring issue a few graduates were asked
to recall professors or classes that made an impact. To my surprise and
delight I was mentioned by a former MBA student, Chet:
Professor Heidi Necks introductory entrepreneurship course always reminded
me of the Elvis lyric, A little less conversation, a little more action please.
She pushed us to stop theorizing and just experiment. She preached about the
importance of failure in the creative process, and then facilitated an environ
ment in which it was safe to fall flat on your face. Plenty of students can tell you
about a professor who helped them succeed, but its rare to speak so highly of a
professor who helped you fail.1

Chet became my inspiration! The lightbulb went off! The aha moment
struck! I was finally free of that irritating writers block. What was the
idea? Drum roll, please ...
I decided not to write about what I had learned about teaching entrepre
neurship, assuming my audience for this volume is educators. I decided to
write an open letter to my students, past and present, about what they had
taught me about teaching entrepreneurship. If you hear in my writing
how I talk to students, perhaps you can understand my teaching philoso
phy. This letter is dedicated to Chet and so many others who participated
in my courses as I learned how to teach:
Dear Student,
I want to thank you for being a part of my life, because you have shaped
who I am as an educator. I can never stop learning how to teach. If or
when I do, I cease being an effective teacher. Every student who enters my
classroom has taught me something about teaching, and I want to share
these lessons that now form my teaching philosophy.

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 14

27/10/2016 08:00

What I have learned about teaching entrepreneurship 15

You have helped me learn what works, how to keep you engaged, and
how much I can push. I understand the importance of looking you in
the eye, reading your body language, and listening really listening. I
anticipate and leverage those unexpected teaching moments that are
uncomfortable yet unforgettable. These moments bind us.
I strive to practice what I preach. I demand that you think and act entre
preneurially, which requires you to develop creative solutions, take early
action, accept and learn from small losses, and improvise when things do
not go according to plan. I have to do the same. Teaching entrepreneurship
requires continuous innovation, fearless experimentation and structured
chaos.
I have learned that I must teach to excite, inspire, motivate and even
shock you. I strive to create the unexpected in order to capture attention
and spark enthusiasm for entrepreneurship the necessary antecedents
to learning. I have extremely high expectations with little tolerance for
mediocrity and apathy, yet the culture of my classroom is open, playful
and respectful. A class plan is necessary for organization and preparedness
but not sufficient for student learning. Flexibility, humor, reactivity and
improvisation are pillars of my philosophy.
Most importantly my approach to teaching is action-based. It has to be.
In order to learn entrepreneurship one must do entrepreneurship. I have
worked tirelessly to ensure you are able to practice aspects of entrepreneur
ship rather than be passive learners. Every day I strive to create a learning
laboratory for experimentation and practice. You have taught me that
action-based learning creates a sense of shared ownership in the learning
process.
I encourage all students to use their voice to debate, push back, and
challenge me and their peers. Ive developed the confidence to do the same.
But Ill admit that the little things bother me. I have zero tolerance for
unprofessional behavior. Arriving to class late, using smartphones and
laptops inappropriately, and disrespecting me or other students have no
place in my classroom. I will not hesitate to stop class, solve a particular
issue and then restart class. You have taught me that ignoring bad behavior
only perpetuates that behavior. And that behavior can become a cancer
that spreads unless it is detected and stopped early. On the other hand patterns of negative behavior are 100 percent my fault. If half the class is con
sumed by their phones or computers then I am doing something wrong.
If students are constantly arriving late or leaving during class to go [fill in
the blank], I am doing something wrong. I am failing to engage; therefore,
I must change my approach immediately.
The fact that I have no tolerance for unprofessional behavior does
not mean I want a staid atmosphere. This would be the antithesis of

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 15

27/10/2016 08:00

16

Annals of entrepreneurship education and pedagogy 2016

entrepreneurship. I know that my courses need to be alive, exciting, rel


evant, challenging, creative, innovative and even playful and joyful. A
community of learning and engagement must be omnipresent if we are
going to transcend our preconceived notions of what entrepreneurship
is and its importance in the world today. In other words, you have a huge
responsibility as a nascent or practicing entrepreneur to create something
of economic and social value to you and others.
I also have an enormous responsibility. Entrepreneurship is a complex
phenomenon, chaotic, and lacking any notion of linearity. As an educator
I have the responsibility to develop your discovery, thinking, reasoning,
experimentation, and implementation skills so you may lead, manage,
innovate and excel in highly uncertain entrepreneurial environments. These
skills enhance the likelihood that you will identify and capture the right
opportunity at the right time for the right reason. Entrepreneurs of all kinds
impact the world, so entrepreneurship education is a necessary and formi
dable change agent. I really want you to do something great, take action and
change your world! I will do everything I can to help facilitate your journey.
Keep entrepreneuring!
Ray Smilor
In my approach to teaching, I see myself as a guide. I lead students on a
journey of self-discovery, a journey that reflects the entrepreneurial process
itself experiential throughout, surprising and unexpected at times, quite
ambiguous now and then, intense on occasion, challenging and demanding
most of the time, personally revealing, and potentially highly rewarding.
As a guide, I point direction but never dictate it. I warn of hazards but
never prevent them. I dont predict but I do challenge. I debrief success and
recognize the power of failure. I recognize talent but reward hard work. I
encourage hope and bet on potential.
My philosophy is that each and every student is an entrepreneur capable
of creative thinking and effective action. Interestingly, many students
dont see themselves as either creative or entrepreneurial when they start
my entrepreneurship courses. By the end, however, they are convinced that
they are. How does this transformation happen?

FIVE LESSONS
Having taught entrepreneurship at all levels in many countries over the last
35 years, I have learned five key lessons that shape what I teach and how
I teach it.

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 16

27/10/2016 08:00

What I have learned about teaching entrepreneurship 17

1. Create a Truly Different Learning Environment


From the first moment of the first class, I want students to be bolted into
believing that this class is really different from all others. Thus I learn the
name of each student before they come into class and call them by name.
That gets their attention! Then, before I introduce myself or discuss the
syllabus, I conduct an experiential exercise that forces them to think uncon
ventionally. For example, in my Opportunity Recognition class, I ask them
What is half of 13? The first response is always 6.5. But I continue to
ask over and over, What is half of 13? Eventually, we get to an incredibly
wide range of answers that include 1, 2, 3, 6, 11, thir and teen, and many
others, demonstrating that there is never just one right answer, that there is
always more than one alternative, if one is daring enough to consider them.
In another class, I will introduce myself with a bag resume. This pre
sents a bisociative connection between a brown grocery store bag and the
traditional paper resume. I pull six items out of the bag, each representing
something that helped shape who I am as a person. Its unexpected, emo
tional and concrete. Then, in the next class, I have each student present
their own bag resume as a way to demonstrate their own creativity and
resourcefulness.
Even my syllabi are different. In my EMBA class on Innovation and
Entrepreneurship, for example, I intersperse quotes, starting with Apples
1997 Think Different commercial about crazies and genius, and end with
Arthur Ashes comment about the importance of ones reputation. I even
include a cartoon about the entrepreneurial mindset.
If I can make each class really different from any other, then I can set
high expectations, build enthusiasm and get the best out of each student.
2. Instill an Entrepreneurial Attitude
What does it mean to have an entrepreneurial attitude? For me, three ele
ments are essential: a willingness to be wrong, a desire to make connec
tions, and a belief that it is okay to fail. To instill these elements in students,
I set up opportunities for them to test each element.
Sir Ken Robinson, the noted scholar on creativity, has pointed out
that to be creative one must be willing to be wrong. In my classroom, this
sometimes translates into the courage to look ridiculous. For example,
Ive required students to take dance lessons from a professor of classical
dance. Once they do that they tend not to be afraid of anything! And they
are much more willing to test out their own crazy ideas by ignoring the
criticism of others!
Students too often believe that they must come up with an idea that

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 17

27/10/2016 08:00

18

Annals of entrepreneurship education and pedagogy 2016

no one ever thought about before to be successful. And yet real innova
tion often comes by making connections between things that people have
thought a lot about before but never combined: a phenomenon that histo
rian Arthur Koestler called bisociation the ability to relate two seemingly
unrelated things, to take two wildly different things and put them together.
So, in my New Venture Development course, I utilize exercises that force
unusual connections leading to business concepts that link apparently
unrelated things not only fun but practically useful.
I help students realize that successful entrepreneurs fail all the time.
Through case studies, guest speakers, hands-on activities and their own
efforts in class, they come to realize that mistakes demonstrate what is not
working and needs fixing. The key is how we label failure. How we think
about something affects how we feel about it and influences how we act
towards it. In my classes, failure is not an end but another type of learning
experience.
3. Require Active Involvement and Engagement
In my career, I have learned that, if one never speaks up, it is assumed that
one has nothing to say. Thus I require that students speak up, and I grade
them on their active involvement in each class on a 0 to 4 scale (a technique
that I learned from case teacher Dave Rosenthal). Zero means a student has
said nothing. Four means the student has made an important contribution
to the discussion at hand. So, when we analyze a case or critique a business
plan, my emphasis is not on the quantity of participation but the quality.
I provide continual feedback to students on their participation. Because I
know each student personally, they take this feedback c onstructively and
come to class prepared to be engaged.
My focus is on both attitudes and behaviors. By requiring involvement
and engagement, I not only look for thoughtful discussion but also expect
students to participate in experiential exercises with an open mind, a
positive approach, and a willingness to take some risk. Through interactive
debriefs of class activities, and sometimes written experience memos, I
take time for each student to reflect on his or her own learning. Students
thus must consider what they have experienced, identify their take-aways,
and assess what specifically applies to their own behavior. Self-reflection
thus becomes a kind of cement for the learning process.
4. Promote Yes, and Behavior
Entrepreneurs improvise. They have to make things up as they go along and
often must operate in ambiguous circumstances. How do we help students

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 18

27/10/2016 08:00

What I have learned about teaching entrepreneurship 19

get more comfortable in this type of environment? I believe lessons from


improvisation are important here: to listen actively, to eliminate no and
but, and to stay in the moment. These are skills that students can learn
and hone.
For me, Yes, and has been the key to my success, and I believe it is
essential for the pursuit of opportunity. For example, when I have students
interview an entrepreneur, I require that they explain what they have dis
covered that they did not set out to discover. This requires active listening
and asking probing questions, important attributes in understanding and
responding to the needs of others. In working in teams to generate ideas,
they must avoid no and but and instead first communicate that they
have understood the idea presented (Yes) and then add something to
expand or improve it (and). Lastly, to hone their Yes, and behavior,
they must stay in the moment, that is, not jump ahead to push their own
agenda but learn to focus on the person in front of them.
I help develop these skills with movie clips and experiential exercises.
For example, I love the clip from Apollo 13 about the Square Peg in a
Round Hole, in which engineers have limited resources and limited time
to solve an oxygen problem in the space craft. Thus I developed the Flying
Device Game to simulate this situation. Students have to build a flying
device from limited materials in a limited time that flies the farthest and
the straightest an exercise that emphasizes the Yes, and approach by
dealing with problem-solving, team communication and innovation and
its great fun.
5. Address All Learning Styles
We all learn differently. That is, we have different learning preferences.
In my classes, I structure each session to address each style. As the Kolb
Learning Style Inventory (which I have students complete) shows, there
are four major learning styles of feeling (concrete experience), watching
(reflective observation), thinking (abstract conceptualization) and doing
(active experimentation). If I can structure a class to touch on all four, then
I am more likely to keep their attention and bring out their best thinking
and action. For students with a feeling orientation, I can use simulations,
consulting projects and elevator pitches; for those with a watching orienta
tion, I can utilize movies, demonstrations, guest speakers, and interviews
with entrepreneurs; for those with a thinking orientation, I can include
interactive lectures, case studies and special readings; for those with a
doing orientation, I can bring in business plan development, company
evaluations and hands-on experiences.

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 19

27/10/2016 08:00

20

Annals of entrepreneurship education and pedagogy 2016

MY RESPONSIBILITY
For me, entrepreneurship is not about starting a business, though that may
be one outcome. It is about leading a more fulfilling life. It is about making
the world a better place by finding ones purpose and then applying it to
something personally meaningful. It is a mindset in which one pursues
opportunity, creates values, communicates a compelling vision and maxi
mizes limited resources in whatever career one chooses. So a person can be
entrepreneurial in launching a startup venture, leading a growth enterprise,
serving as an intrapreneur in a corporation, directing a government agency
or even building an academic program.
I have taught at every level elementary, secondary, undergraduate,
graduate and executive education. And Ive observed this: people learn
what they want to learn. I want them to come out of my classes feeling as
though the classes are the most useful, pertinent and engaging learning
experience that they have ever had. For this to happen, I must address my
responsibilities as a teacher: to prepare fully for each class, to give my best
thinking and effort to every session, and to treat each student and his or
her own hopes and aspirations with respect and dignity.
In each class, I must perform at my best. I use the term perform
purposefully. Performance combines substance (real content) and form
(genuine interest). Both are essential. If I am not deeply engaged and
personally enthused, and visibly show these by my performance, then why
should my students be? By performing at my best, maybe I can inspire and
not just tally grades. For a teacher, there is joy in that.
To teach and to be taught by entrepreneurial students is a p
rivilege.
Every time I walk into my classroom, I remind myself of something: I
dont have to do this; I get to do this. I get to make students aware of
how creative and entrepreneurial they are. I get to share my experience
and passion. I get to inspire. I get to teach entrepreneurship. What a deal!
Bill Rossi
Most effective professors report that they had a mentor, and that the
mentor helped importantly to shape their style and teaching philosophy.
When I began teaching entrepreneurship, I had no mentor. I had to find
my own way. So I talked with students to identify who were their favorite
teachers. I then watched the teachers at work by observing their classes.
Each of these educators seemed to have a unique style, so identifying the
best style to adopt seemed arbitrary. I concluded that I had to find my
own comfort zone in developing a style that would reflect who I am rather
than what I did, and a teaching objective that reflected what I wanted to

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 20

27/10/2016 08:00

What I have learned about teaching entrepreneurship 21

accomplish. These two elements would have to then be guided by an overall


teaching philosophy that reflected my personal values.

TEACHING STYLE
Story Telling
I began by trying to teach the concepts embodied in the entrepreneurial
process, and met with limited initial success. My students were neither
embracing these concepts nor seeing them as an overall process. Frustrated,
I examined my approach and realized that the concepts were too ambigu
ous, and their relevance to students as individual concepts wasnt clear.
Students could repeat them, but the concepts werent being internalized or
seen in the context of an overall entrepreneurship process.
While we teach that failure can be a good thing, for me it was not an
option. Recalling that my favorite TED talks all featured stories, I crafted
and incorporated stories from my personal entrepreneurial background
that highlighted every concept in the entrepreneurial process. Success!
Stories work; students love them. Im a story teller now. Stories breathe
life into entrepreneurial concepts, allowing them to be seen as an overall
process.
Teach Frameworks
We are visual learners. Entrepreneurship is a discipline, replete with
many concepts, but fundamentally its a process, and every element of
that process can be defined by a framework. I began by trying to teach
concepts, but its hard. Students failed to see the relationship between
related concepts. The result was that they reverted to memorization, which
precluded them from ever understanding entrepreneurship as a mindset.
Frameworks define every major element of the entrepreneurship process,
and teaching frameworks provide that visual reference. Frameworks
enhance understanding of concepts, the relationship between them, and
how ultimately the concepts all coalesce into a process that becomes the
entrepreneurial mindset.
Deliberate Practice
Great pianists became great through intense practice. The same can be said
of great football and basketball players. People learn most things through
repeated practice. In particular, learning and internalizing the elements of

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 21

27/10/2016 08:00

22

Annals of entrepreneurship education and pedagogy 2016

the entrepreneurial process are best done through practice. As a strong


proponent of experiential learning, every class day I teach some content,
but then supplement this with repeated, deliberate practice of the concepts
embodied in entrepreneurial competencies.
Risk Taking
We teach risk mitigation as an entrepreneurial competency, but I havent
encountered many good ways of experientially illustrating risk taking.
So, a few years ago, I tried to incorporate risk in an entrepreneurship
course. I proposed that the final exam be optional. If taken, there would
be only two possible grades. Solid performance would result in a letter
grade increase in course grade; poor performance would result in a letter
grade reduction in course grade. Simple: a B pre-final could become
either an A ... or a C. The result was a colossal failure. Pre-final grades
ranged from A to C. Every student in the class elected not to take a
final exam. Apart from Dr. Ks Spine Sweat course (which I dont person
ally have the risk posture to adopt), I still havent found a good tool to
teach risk, but feel strongly that one should be incorporated in teaching
entrepreneurship.
Enthusiasm
Im extremely enthusiastic teaching entrepreneurship; I even get excited. I
think this draws students into class and gets them involved. My demeanor
might be called a performance, although it is not. Im simply tremendously
enthusiastic about entrepreneurship as a discipline and its empowering
and transformative nature, and Im sincerely anxious to get my students to
see it in the same light. Most students interpret my enthusiasm as passion
for entrepreneurship, and my faculty evaluations reflect that.
Compelling Presentations in the Classroom
These are every bit as important as conveying a compelling vision for an
entrepreneur. Theyre not dry nor given by a talking head, but are vibrant,
full of enthusiasm, structurally logical, easily understood and delivered
by someone who exudes passion for the topic. I practice core presentation
skills:
1. Move around. (With a pedometer as my tool, my objective is 4000
steps per class. As they watch me move around, students are listening
to me, and thats my objective.)

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 22

27/10/2016 08:00

What I have learned about teaching entrepreneurship 23

2. Hand and body motions and vocal inflections make you animated,
even entertaining. Without them youre a talking head and difficult to
listen to for more than five minutes.
3. Direct eye contact. When you look at someone directly in the eye,
you connect with that person. From then on, the person feels you are
talking directly to him or her, no matter where you face.

TEACHING OBJECTIVE
My teaching objective is to train students to think, act and do in an entre
preneurial way in every aspect of their life. I want to inspire those that
can be leaders, whether in business or other pursuits, to understand and
embrace the entrepreneurial approach as a way of thinking. I want to
instill in the others the sincere belief that contributors are just as impor
tant as leaders, but only if they too are entrepreneurial in their approach
and become the very best that they can be in the way theyve chosen to
contribute.

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY
My teaching philosophy reflects my values, beliefs and passion for teaching
entrepreneurship. Three tenets form that philosophy:
1. The best teachers are themselves students. Having practiced entrepre
neurship for an entire career, Im comfortable with my domain exper
tise. Scholarly research though regularly features new entrepreneurial
concepts and sheds light on new applications of existing concepts. Im
a student of this research. My purpose is to challenge students, not
only with the traditional concepts but with the newest cutting edge
thinking about entrepreneurship. I work to be the perpetual student,
to learn and then create an active learning environment where students
will be challenged and inspired and will flourish.
2. Learning is facilitated by teachers who are respected by students. Ive
taught long enough now to have many students who have graduated
and are well along in their careers. Some, and from many parts of
the world, have started their own businesses and still stay in contact
with me. Having thought a lot about this, Ive come to believe these
students stay in contact with me because they respected me, and now
are seeking my respect. This to me illustrates the power of inspiration
born of respect.

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 23

27/10/2016 08:00

24

Annals of entrepreneurship education and pedagogy 2016

I work hard to earn respect from every student, and the way I earn
respect is to give respect. I respect every student as an individual and
cater to his or her unique needs. I strive to find a shared perspective
with each student. While this takes a lot of personal interaction, I find
that students believe that I care for them as individuals. This creates
respect for me, facilitating my ability to influence them through course
content.
I respect their time. My office hours are any time, and include
weekends.
Finally, I respect their efforts. Encouragement drives effort, so I
easily complement clear thinking and solid effort. Challenge and
encouragement are inseparable and are key elements in inspiring
students interest in entrepreneurship and their desire to learn more.
3. Substantial learning occurs outside of the classroom, where students
review and discuss feedback and assessment of their deliverables. I
believe that the learning process and permanent learning are advanced
by providing substantive feedback for every deliverable, both construc
tive criticism and praise. This gives the student another opportunity to
learn. Providing such extensive feedback is not without cost a lot of
time. But its also not without value. Students regularly comment to me
that they rarely receive such in-depth commentary on their work, and
wished they did.
In summary, teaching entrepreneurship is not a job; its a privilege. The
style used to teach it I think has to be unique, and reflects ones comfort
zone in terms of how one interacts with students. It is not something that
can be observed in others and emulated. Teaching objectives can be similar
among teachers. Ones teaching philosophy I feel must also be unique, as
it reflects ones values, beliefs and passion for teaching entrepreneurship.

NOTE
1. Reflections from graduating students, Babson Magazine, Spring 2013, http://www.
babson.edu/news-events/babson-magazine/spring-2013/babson-beyond/Pages/
reflections-from-graduating-students.aspx.

REFERENCES
Barnett, R. (2007), Will to Learn: Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty,
NewYork: Open University Press.

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 24

27/10/2016 08:00

What I have learned about teaching entrepreneurship 25

Deleuze, G. (1990), The Logic of Sense, trans. M. Lester and C. Stivale, New York:
Columbia University Press.
Felman, S. (1992), Education and crisis, or the vicissitudes of teaching, in
S. Felman and D. Laub (eds.), Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature,
Psychoanalysis, and History, New York: Routledge, pp.156.
Rilke, R.M. (1993), Letters to a Young Poet, trans. M.D. Herter, New York:
Norton.

Michael H. Morris and Eric Liguori - 9781784719159


Downloaded from Elgar Online at 12/06/2016 03:44:08PM
via free access

MORRIS_9781784719159_t.indd 25

27/10/2016 08:00